One of the many things our agency wanted us to consider pre-IVF was what we would do if our child was determined to have health issues, specifically Down Syndrome. Would we terminate the pregnancy? Would we want to give the child up for adoption? Our agency wanted everything out on the table ahead of time so that, ideally, there would be no surprises on either side. We were made aware of the fact that even if we wanted an abortion, Elle could decide against it and carry to term. She would also have the legal right to terminate the pregnancy at any time and for any reason. While our contract with her may state that she is unable to do so, her legal rights would ultimately trump our own. Elle was even told that she would be given “first dibs” for the child should we ever decide that we were no longer interested in raising him/her.
As far as Kyle and I are concerned, there is absolutely no reason we would ever choose to terminate or walk away from any potential child (not looking to start arguments here; this was our personal decision). We are so adamant about this that Kyle even tried to remove the section of the contract that gave us the right to an abortion until the agency demanded it be reinstated. We signed the final draft anyway, knowing we would never invoke it, but I am still uncomfortable when I think about having the wording in there.
For some reason, the possibility that our child could have Down Syndrome was never really a concern for me. Not because I didn’t think it could happen, but because I didn’t feel as though it would be the end of the world. We would be grateful to have and love any child regardless of their abilities or disabilities. And while we would admittedly have a lot to learn about parenting a child with special needs, it wasn’t something I feared. Sure, there is a part of me that would grieve on behalf of a son or daughter that might not be able to have certain experiences, and I understand that life would not be as we might have imagined it, but I felt like it was something we could get through. Furthermore, I understand that health at birth does not indicate a life without health issues. Accidents happen and diseases can develop at a later time. I, myself, am proof of that. So for us, we felt that committing to getting pregnant meant also committing to any potential child.
About 6 weeks or so into the pregnancy, we were presented with options for prenatal testing. We felt strongly that any invasive procedures that came with a risk to the baby were not worth pursuing, and Elle was willing to defer to whatever we felt was best. However, the doctor’s office did recommend that we do NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing), which can determine a high or low risk factor simply from a blood draw. It didn’t change the way we felt about anything, but we realized that it would give us time to prepare if the results came back abnormal. We were given information on a specific blood test for Elle that would analyze Sweet Pea’s DNA without any risk involved, and an appointment was made.
But, when Elle went in for the test, she was told that it couldn’t be done because she was not related to the child she’s carrying. It would have been nice to have been told that from the beginning (it’s not like this is a surprise), but that is just part of the fun of surrogacy. Instead, Elle was offered a different blood test that required two separate blood draws, one of which couldn’t take place until much later in the pregnancy. While this test was not nearly as accurate as the first one, I received a phone call the day after we got back home from the gender ultrasound saying that Sweet Pea’s test results were normal. So often I feel as though this pregnancy is just too good to be true, and I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. My biggest fear had been that he would have some kind of genetic disease that would cause him to suffer in pain over a short lifetime and that we would have to say goodbye to him not long after birth. Hearing that that scenario is unlikely came as an incredible relief. If one of us was going to live a life with chronic pain, I am so glad that it is me and not him.
A few weeks after receiving those results, Elle & Sweet Pea went in for the anatomy scan to check on his growth and development. That was well over a month ago now, but it has taken me so long to write about it and post the pictures because it ended up taking place only four days after we lost my mother-in-law. At the time of the ultrasound we were 21+ weeks along, and I had initially considered pushing back the appointment due to the circumstances– the juxtaposition of having our growth & development ultrasound while also planning a funeral just felt too difficult. We were also scattered across the country since I was still in Florida helping my father-in-law while Kyle had been forced to get back to his classes. But, because Elle had been sick with what was likely whooping cough for a few weeks, I decided to stick with the plan so she could see the doctor (all is okay now, and thankfully, she is doing much better). That’s how I found myself Skype-ing with Elle while simultaneously FaceTiming with Kyle as he left the airport.
One of the lovely technicians held Elle’s tablet up throughout the entire appointment so I could watch the screen while I held my phone up to the computer so Kyle could see, and we all waited to hear the news on Sweet Pea’s development. Photo after photo was taken of his organs with everything appearing just as it should. Kyle’s dad and aunt, both of whom had never seen an ultrasound before, sat beside me while I proudly pointed out Sweet Pea’s fingers and toes. He weighed only a pound, but the amount of detail we could see in his tiny body was absolutely incredible, and I still can’t get over the fact that he is mine.
Somehow we are now down to just one last ultrasound before we get to hold Sweet Pea in our arms. Kyle and I have decided to travel to see it in person next month since we have missed out on so much of the pregnancy. Our appointment has been scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving, and Elle & her family have invited us to spend the holiday with them. After everything we’ve been through together this year, they have now become a permanent part of our family, and to reflect that, we’ve asked them if they would like to be called “aunt” and “uncle” by Sweet Pea. They have certainly more than earned those titles, and I love having the big sister I’ve always wanted in Elle.
I don’t keep the ultrasound photos on the home page of my blog because they can be painful for those going through infertility and fertility treatments to see. If you’d like to view them, click here: https://inpursuitofafamily.wordpress.com/ultrasound-photos